Asheville Dem Matt Coffay to challenge Meadows in NC-11
Matt Coffay, a grassroots organizer and former farmer, is hoping to lead a progressive wave of change in Western North Carolina. This past weekend, he announced his intent to challenge U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows for the state’s 11th House district seat.
At a rally Tuesday outside the Henderson County Courthouse hosted by Progressive Organized Women, Coffay told a crowd of about 100 that during the campaign, he won’t spend all his time on the phone tying himself to big donors and their interests. Instead of building his campaign on the maximum personal donations of $2,700, he said, he’ll be looking for donations of $27.
Infrastructure, jobs, education and health care were the focus of his remarks. Coffay says he supports a $15 minimum wage, health care for all, free public college and investment in infrastructure and jobs.
A native of Blue Ridge, Ga., 30-year-old Coffay traveled around some after college, he said, but has been back home in Southern Appalachia for the past decade.
For the past few years, he’s been a full-time farmer, working 80 hours a week to grow a variety of vegetables on a small farm for direct sales to consumers and restaurants. He’s now with the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, where he works with chapters nationwide to advance federal policy to make it easier for young people to become farmers.
Basically there’s an agriculture crisis across the nation, Coffay said. The average age of American farmers is now 60 years old, continuing an upward trend that’s not showing any signs of turning around.
He started the local chapter of OurRevolution, a progressive political organization that formed after the presidential election. The chapter, OurRevolutionAVL, out of Asheville, grew quickly. Coffay said he’s been told by national organizers that it has developed into one of the top two or three largest and most active chapters in the country.
When the organization got to the point where it was looking for candidates to run for local office, he was approached as a good choice for the 11th, thanks to his background as a young farmer and being a native of the area and a good organizer.
At first, Coffay said he laughed at the “preposterous” idea, but the more he thought about it, the more he felt that a person like him is exactly what the country needs in Washington, D.C.
Congress is mostly populated by rich lawyers, he said, something the vast majority of the nation is not. Half the country earns less than $15 an hour, he said, and what’s needed in Congress are people who understand what it’s like to work really hard and want to fight on behalf of the working class.
Last Sunday, at a rally promoting Medicare for All, Coffay officially announced that he’ll be running on the Democratic ticket against Meadows in 2018. He hopes to unseat the congressman, who has quickly gained traction in Washington and wields influence as the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.
Meadows during his time in Washington has been credited with shutting down the government and stopping the American Health Care Act, the recent Republican bid to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
Coffay’s encouraged, however, by the recent special elections in Kansas and Georgia, where Democratic candidates gained ground in traditionally Republican districts. He said he hopes the same factors fueling those campaigns can help his candidacy gain steam in the deeply red NC-11.
In Georgia, John Ossoff, another 30-year-old Democratic congressional hopeful, just won 48 percent of the vote in a special election, almost crossing the 50-percent threshold that would have prevented a June runoff. In Kansas, Democratic candidate Jim Thompson faced a similar situation, losing to Republican Kansas State Treasurer Ron Estes by just six points.
Another race Coffay mentioned is the Montana special election for the House, where Democratic candidate Rob Quist is gaining momentum and funding.
All three races were caused by President Donald Trump appointing the Republican incumbent to administration posts, and Coffay says all three are interesting.